Monday, August 31, 2009

1957: Castro anointed Revolutionary Chief

Cuba History Timeline Events
December 30, 1957
Castro's response to the Liberation Junta's Pact of Miami (Unity Pact) was hand carried by his trusted courier Antonio Buch, a Santiago physician. It arrived in Miami on December 30, causing quite a stir.

Castro's response plainly showed the Junta members that Castro would not honor agreements, nor tolerate any arrangement which did not give him absolute control; and that his unvarying two-pronged strategy was to
(1) engage only with individuals he could bully or trick into doing what he wanted, and
(2) attack all others—who he saw as enemies to neutralize or destroy. These attacks included invective, ridicule and violence.

Castro's scathing attack on the Junta for "politicking" (politiqueria) was an unmistakable signal that he viewed political compromise, negotiation and elections with contempt, being devoted to the use of force and the establishment of totalitarian rule. In mocking the Miami revolutionaries as engaged in an "imaginary revolution" (contrasted with what he called his real revolution in the Sierra), he made it clear that he did not view power as something to share, and that he would engage only parties completely loyal and subservient to him.

Castro's imperious letter tacitly conveyed his future dictatorial plans for Cuba. The initial response of Liberation Junta leaders was shock, despondency and dismay. They feared, rightly, that if the letter’s contents were publicly known their exile "Unity" public relations ploy would collapse, exposed for what it was, and make them look foolish for having trusted Castro. This left them in a quandary. They could publicly acknowledge the letter, and denounce Castro as a thug seeking to establish a totalitarian regime by deception and intimidation. But this course would help Batista—a result they were committed to avoid at any cost.

The Miami revolutionaries resolved their quandary by begging the M-26-7 representatives to suppress publication of the letter. In their pleading they acceded to all of Castro’s demands. This was doubly satisfactory to Castro’s representatives, since some of them also felt publication of the letter would not help their cause or Castro’s public image. Raul Chibás, Mario Llerena and Buch family members in Miami and New York called on press contacts to avoid publication of the letter’s contents. Buch family members representing Castro in the US at that time included courier Antonio Buch, Angel Maria Santos Buch, and Luis M. Buch Rodríguez (who would become secretary of the Council of Ministers in January 1959.)

Castro’s arrogant and insulting letter triggered objections from Tony Varona, Manuel Bisbé and Roberto Agramonte, with attendant fractiousness and internal disarray within the Junta. The arrival of Castro’s letter (but little of its contents) and the initial disputes it triggered were reported by the New York Times and Time. But the objections to the letter were soon withdrawn, and the Junta members assented to Castro’s dictatorial demands. And in spite of mounting evidence of communist participation in the Sierra, they reaffirmed and officially ratified their submission to his leadership a few months later in the Pact of Caracas (July 1958).

This was a pivotal moment in Cuban history, because with the Junta’s abasing assent Castro had finally yoked to his movement the other revolutionary groups and the abstencionistas, taking total control of the revolutionary opposition. Castro’s “fake it ‘til you make it” gambit had finally paid off, making him (as he had for so long pretended to be) the Maximum Leader, in complete control over the revolutionary opposition.

The Junta leaders could have confronted Castro and the truth before them, publicly telling their followers what had happened. They could have acknowledged their error and told their followers that for all his faults Batista was able and willing to negotiate; as he had in the past, and this was an acceptable compromise, especially since he would not be a candidate in the 1958 elections. They could have denounced Castro and announced they were changing course by supporting the electoralist-constitutionalist opposition and the 1958 elections. That solution would have preserved and secured Cuba’s democratic institutions and freedoms. They could have at least honored Márquez-Sterling’s request to suspend their attacks on the electoralist opposition and its candidates until the 1958 election was held and results announced.

But tragically for Cuba, the Junta leaders ultimately chose to capitulate to Castro rather than acknowledge they had erred in forging an alliance with him. Their fanatical compulsion to destroy Batista rendered them oblivious to signs that by empowering a thug telegraphing ambitions of absolute power they were imperiling the survival of Cuba’s democratic institutions. They evidenced their unfitness as moral leaders by irresponsibly adopting "the ends justify the means" as their guiding principle.

Consumed by hatred for Batista, the Junta leaders convinced themselves to turn a blind eye to all they knew about a Castro: his criminal past, his thuggery, his communist associations (going back to the Bogotazo), and his unwillingness to honor agreements. Worse, these leaders used their political clout to convince their Cuban followers that Castro was not a Communist or a gangster, but a trustworthy champion of democracy that could be depended on to make good on his promises to restore full democracy when he came to power. Their rabid partisanship led them to aid and abet Castro in his campaign to subvert the 1958 elections by thuggery, intimidation, electoral fraud and even murder of candidates. Causing injury to Batista trumped all other considerations. They apparently failed to consider that in subverting the election and fomenting political thuggery they were paving the road for a tyrant to establish totalitarian rule.

Carlos Márquez-Sterling thought the Pact of Miami had been a vain attempt by the Miami armchair revolutionaries to con a con man, devised by the Junta as a snare to gain control over Fidel and his movement, but ending with Fidel turning the tables on them and bringing them under his control.

In his paper, 'Anybody but Batista' or The Politics of 'The End Justifies the Means', Manuel Márquez-Sterling characterizes the response by the Junta members to Castro’s diktat as the critical turning point that established Castro's tyranny:

[The Junta] submissively capitulated to the diktat of the man already emerging as the new dictator of Cuba. They did so because for them the overriding goal was violently overthrowing Batista, as we can gather from Angel Pérez Vidal's candid description of these events in his history of the revolution.

By accepting the premise that preserving public order and the reorganizing the armed forces after Batista's fall was the sole province of the 26th of July Movement, the Junta leaders had tacitly consented to forming revolutionary militias and disbanding the Cuban armed forces. This would potentially put the country in the hands of Communist rabble—and it did in 1959. By quiescence they also consented to the dismantling of all of Cuba's democratic institutions. Agreeing to treat the office of President as appointive at Castro's pleasure and accepting Urrutia as President—a political unknown without a constituency—meant that all executive, legislative and judicial powers would be in the hands of Castro and his 26th of July Movement. And of course the armchair Junta put at Castro's disposal their considerable public relations and propaganda resources within Cuba to harass the electoralists and undermine the 1958 elections.

In the same paper he goes on to add that in political terms, by their acquiescence the Junta anointed Castro as tyrant:
From that day Cuba had two dictators: one waning at the exit door, the other waxing at the starting gate. The feckless and degrading abasement the Junta chose as their path elicited from Carlos Márquez-Sterling his prophetic declaration that "A somber tyranny is being incubated in the Sierra." There were few who at the time were able or willing to understand this utterance against the tide.

This was truly the turning point in the Cuban political crisis of the 50s. After playing "Leader of the Revolutionary Opposition" for so long on the pages of the New York Times, Bohemia, and other pages of a free if biased press, Castro finally became the undisputed and unaccountable Leader of the Revolution. The armchair revolutionaries would later bitterly rue their decision, as they painfully learned that replacing democratic government with a totalitarian one is much easier than the reverse.

based on Manuel Márquez-Sterling's Cuba 1952-1959 and
Cuba 1952-1959 Interactive Timeline

Friday, August 28, 2009

1957: Castro response to Pact of Miami

Cuba History Timeline Events
December 14, 1957
The slow traveling news of the Liberation Junta announcements was not well received in the Sierra. According to those in his camp then, Castro on reading the Junta's agreements exploded, ranting: "How stupid can they be? Do they really think... that while I am here in the Sierras I will permit Prio and Pazos will decide everything in Miami?" Castro's reaction and his response to the Pact of Miami attested that he would honor agreements and elections only while convenient—and giving him the last word.

Manuel Márquez-Sterling writes in his paper, 'Anybody but Batista' or The Politics of 'The End Justifies the Means' that

When news of the announcement of the Junta agreements reached Castro in the Sierra Maestra, he flew into one of his frequent rages. Wasting no time, he fired off an angry letter to the Junta Miami officers on December 14, 1957. In that letter Castro repudiated the agreements to which his own delegates were signatories, and categorically rejected the creation of a military junta as successor to Batista- which the Junta had also agreed and announced. With characteristic arrogance Castro also affirmed, to the chagrin of Junta members, that there were no binding agreements whatsoever between him the Junta, and that maintaining public order and reorganizing Cuba's armed forces after Batista's fall was the exclusive prerogative of the 26th of July Movement. He added that, in regard to a provisional president, he had already designated Manuel Urrutia.

Castro's letter was imperiously arrogant, blunt and revealing of his future dictatorial plans for Cuba. In his ukase, Castro insults Prio, lashes against Varona, and ridicules Agramonte. And he serves notice on them that after Batista, during his “provisional” government the rights of the old political parties will be severely curtailed, limited to defending their programs and reorganizing for elections. By issuing a decree about permissible political activity in the revolutionary regime to come, he implicitly gave a clear indication of his approach to governance.

In his letter Castro justified his choice of Judge Manuel Urrutia as Provisional President on the grounds of his impartiality, non-partisanship and impressive knowledge and commitment to justice in application of law. This is an especially ludicrous part of the letter, citing Urrutia’s infamous decision in the Granma Revolutionaries trial to bolster its preposterous claims. Urrutia’s outlandish dissenting minority opinion in that case had demonstrated precisely the opposite.

Urrutia’s bizarre opinion that violent insurrection and terrorism was a constitutionally protected right was on its face absurd. It demonstrated at best ignorance of the law and at worst a deliberate effort to subvert justice. It was a blatantly political act, reasonably characterized as judicial malpractice. It was naked judicial activism demonstrating that he allowed political views to serve as his primary consideration in deciding a case.

Urrutia’s outrageous opinion was not merely a case of attempting to legislate from the bench. From a lower court, he issued an opinion beyond that court's jurisdiction that would set aside a Supreme Court ruling, and represented a de facto constitutional amendment—one that would result in subverting the intent of the framers of the Constitution, inviting insurrectional violence by granting it immunity from prosecution. It was also an affront to common sense. A Constitution serves its purpose of promoting civil order by establishing limits and accountability concerning the use of force. Therefore, it is absurd to interpret it would, under any conditions, license unaccountable use of violence by individuals unilaterally engaging in terrorist acts against private property and persons.

An English translation of Castro’s response letter is found in Dubois’ “Fidel Castro”.

based on Manuel Márquez-Sterling's Cuba 1952-1959 and
Cuba 1952-1959 Interactive Timeline

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

1957: Pact of Miami - Cuban Liberation Junta

Cuba History Timeline Events
October 15, 1957
On 15 October leaders of the Autenticos and the revolutionary wing of the Ortodoxos, joined with representatives of the DR (Student Revolutionary Directorate) and the 26th of July Movement (authorized by Castro) to announce their formation of the Junta de Liberación Cubana (Cuban Liberation Junta, also called Cuban Liberation Council).

The Miami armchair revolutionaries were troubled to see media attention increasingly shifting from them to Castro. Noticing their parade thinning, they scampered to join Castro’s and share in its attention. Demonstrating their unworthiness and incompetence as political leaders, they responded to their waning following and press coverage by redoubling their faith in force and violence as the way to political power.

Blinded by hatred for Batista and their lust for political power they embraced "the ends justify the means" as their guiding principle. This led them to reject the call of the Manifesto of the Five and Carlos Márquez-Sterling’s invitation to unite and participate in the 1958 elections, choosing instead to support Castro’s efforts to use thuggery and terrorism to derail and sabotage the 1958 elections. Their rabid partisanship made "punishing Batista" their overriding goal—even more important than preserving Cuba's democratic institutions. The program of the Liberation Junta was in significant measure a public relations exercise intended to (deceptively) portray the revolutionary factions in exile as united and actively playing a leadership role in the revolutionary opposition efforts against Batista.

The Liberation Junta made many declarations and announcements. With much fanfare, on the first of November they publicly signed the Pact of Miami (also known as the Unity Pact, “Pacto de UNIDAD”). An English translation of the main provisions of the Pact is found in Dubois’ “Fidel Castro”.

As part of the Pact of Miami the Junta publicly announced its unanimous election of Felipe Pazos (Castro’s M-26-7 delegate to the Junta) as future Provisional President of Cuba after the fall of Batista. A respected economist, Pazos had served as president of the National Bank of Cuba in the Prío administration. To all appearances Pazos and other delegates justifiably believed that they were acting in accord with the principles proclaimed in the Manifesto of the Sierra and its provisions. Pazos and fellow delegate Raul Chibás were (along with Castro) the signers of the Sierra Manifesto

Among the signatories of the Pact of Miami were Carlos Prîo, Carlos Hevia, Carlos Maristany and Tony Varona (Autenticos); Manuel Bisbé and Roberto Agramonte (Ortodoxos); Felipe Pazos, Raúl Chibás, Léster Rodriguez, Lucas Morán and Mario Llerena (M-26-7); Alberto Mora, Ramón Prendes and Faure Chomón (FEU-DR/Student Revolutionary Directorate); Angel Cofiño (CTC/Revolutionary Workers Directorate); and Lincoln Rodón and José R. Andreu (Demócratas).

based on Manuel Márquez-Sterling's Cuba 1952-1959 and
Cuba 1952-1959 Interactive Timeline

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

1957: Cayo Loco Mutiny & Overthrow Conspiracy

Cuba History Timeline Events
September 5, 1957
Tony Varona and Prio Auténtico followers, acting in concert with M-26-7, organized an overthrow plot featuring coordinated multiple air, naval and land forces, including attacks on Havana military headquarters. However, the plotters failed to inform confederates at Cayo Loco naval station in Cienfuegos that the date of the uprising had been postponed. Unaware of the change in plans, the Cayo Loco forces acted alone and were rapidly and decisively put down.

Shortly after the uprising began, a squadron of F-47 Thunderbolt fighter-bombers was sent out to bomb the Cayo Loco base to quell the uprising. However, the squadron chief and the pilots dispatched were involved or in sympathy with the rebels, and disobeyed orders by dropping their bombs out at sea. But the rebellion was quickly and forcefully put down upon the arrival of army troops and tanks.

The rebels military leader, 2nd Lt. Dionisio San Román, had been dishonorably discharged from the armed forces in connection with an earlier overthrow plot. Over fifty years later, a number of details about the Cienfuegos mutiny and its allied conspiracy remain uncertain and contentious, including the location and circumstances of San Román’s death. By some accounts he was killed during the uprising. By other accounts San Román tried to escape by sea but was captured by a PBY amphibian airplane and flown to Havana where he was tortured and killed.

The casualties of the uprising numbered about 300. Surviving plotters were tried and found guilty at Court Martial, some sentenced to execution by firing squad. Batista commuted the death sentences to life imprisonment. Tony Varona was charged as a conspirator in the plot. But he sought asylum in the Chilean embassy and Batista allowed him safe conduct to leave the country. Soon thereafter Varona returned to Miami, continuing his work with Miami revolutionary operations against Batista.

Ex-Fidelista Pérez Vidal reports that Castro told his followers in Cuba and revolutionaries in Miami to avoid publicity for the Cienfuegos uprising because it would divert press coverage from M-26-7 operations, and that their comments to the press should treat it dismissively as an internal struggle among Batista's rivals in the Army.

The impact of the rebellion on public opinion may have been a factor in the imposition of the US arms embargo to Batista’s government six months later. The failed revolt caused a military purge, leading to the imprisonment of many air force officers for rebellion and treason. Many others were dishonorably discharged. It also led Batista to mistrust the Air Force as a service not loyal to him, further eroding morale of the Cuban armed forces. Representative coverage of these incidents in contemporaneous US press accounts is found in reporting by Time and the New York Times.

Dionisio San Roman c1957Cayo Loco Naval Station c1957
Dionisio San RománCayo Loco Naval Station c1957

based on Manuel Márquez-Sterling's Cuba 1952-1959 and
Cuba 1952-1959 Interactive Timeline

Related Cuba 1952-1959 posts:
  • (March 1958) Judiciary challenges to Batista : Officials charged for torture and murder of Dionisio San Román and other conspirators in the Cayo Loco uprising

Monday, August 17, 2009

1957: Fraudulent Campesino Bombing Denunciation

Cuba History Timeline Events
August 19, 1957
Two of Castro’s M-26-7 rebels descended from the Sierra Maestra to publicly denounce Batista’s Air Force for war atrocities- bombings killing hundreds of defenseless campesinos (farm workers). They also declared that Castro would never accept an electoral solution, “even if the elections were clean and honest.”

After the revolution, soon after Castro assumed the post of Prime Minister, the charges of war crime bombings by Batista planes that killed civilians proved to be false. At a Revolutionary Trial in March 1959, the pilots were found innocent of the charges and it was proven that though the pilots orders were for legitimate military targets, in fact the pilots had overflown the Sierra targets and dropped the bombs out at sea. Irate, Castro demanded a retrial where the pilots were found guilty and sentenced to 30 years in prison.

The Bulletin of the International Commission of Jurists on Post-revolutionary events in Cuba (No. 9, August 1959) commented upon the miscarriage of justice in the aviators' case. The Organization of American States Inter-American Commission On Human Rights denounced the reversal and the abuse of the pilots in prison (Resolution 47/81, Case 4677/Cuba).

based on Manuel Márquez-Sterling's Cuba 1952-1959 and
Cuba 1952-1959 Interactive Timeline

1957: Mothers' Protest staged for US Ambassador

Cuba History Timeline Events
July 31, 1957
Castro’s M-26-7 operatives stage a phony “spontaneous protest” of Cuban mothers carrying sign: "Stop the murders of our sons" to coincide with the new US Ambassador’s visit to Santiago de Cuba. The protest is so clumsily organized that Smith recognizes it for what it is. In his own words:

“While I was receiving the keys to the city of Santiago […] you could hear a growing roar of voices outside. The mothers of Santiago were demonstrating in the square. A group of approximately 200 women—some quite young, and to all appearances, representatives of the upper middle class—staged a demonstration in Parque Céspedes in front of the Municipal Palace. The women were dressed completely in black. Many were too young to have been mothers of grown sons. They were obviously recruited for the occasion.”

A disturbance broke out when the women protesters tried to break through the police cordon. Batista suspended the Bill of Rights for a period of forty-five days. The suspension of constitutional guarantees meant the temporary loss of such rights as habeas corpus, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures, free assembly and free speech.

After returning to Havana and holding interviews with many political leaders, pro- and anti-Castro, Smith correctly sized up Castro and his revolution and flew back to Washington to publicly warn the American people that Castro would not honor international obligations.

Santiago Mothers Protest, Cuba July 1957Amb Smith Santiago Protest, Cuba July 1957
Santiago Mothers Protest, July 1957 (photo from Latin American Studies collection)US Amb Smith & Santiago Mother-protesters, 1957 (photo from Latin American Studies collection)

based on Manuel Márquez-Sterling's Cuba 1952-1959 and
Cuba 1952-1959 Interactive Timeline

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

1957: Frank País killed

Cuba History Timeline Events
July 30, 1957
In the wake of a national wave of terrorism which Castro revolutionaries declared a commemoration of the Moncada attack anniversary, Santiago de Cuba police led by José Salas Cañizares captured and killed Frank Pais. His funeral was a rallying point for revolutionaries, and drew large crowds. Many businesses closed for the day. It was the largest anti-Batista demonstration in that city, the stronghold of anti-Batista revolutionary sentiments.

País’ organization, Revolutionary National Action, merged with the July 26th Movement (M-26-7) after Castro's release from jail. País became the leader of the M-26-7 organization in Oriente province. País had organized the Santiago uprising, and built a revolutionary organization with a very large number of cells in Oriente, primarily focussed on urban terrorism.

Pais had been charged, tried and released at Granma Revolutionaries Trial in connection with November 1956 uprising. He continued his revolutionary activities. Pais went underground shortly after the trial, and was sought in connection with terrorist acts in the summer of 1957, related to which Frank's younger brother, José Pais was killed by police on June 30, 1957.

Frank Pais funeral, Santiago Cuba, 1957 Frank Pais funeral, Santiago de Cuba, 1957 (Latin American Studies Collection)

based on Manuel Márquez-Sterling's Cuba 1952-1959 and
Cuba 1952-1959 Interactive Timeline

Monday, August 10, 2009

1957: New US Ambassador Smith accredited

Cuba History Timeline Events
July 23, 1957
Earl E. T. Smith is accredited as US Ambassador, replacing Arthur Gardner. Before Amb. Smith left Washington Undersecretary of State Robert A. Hill confided in him that the United States had already decided Batista had to go.

US Amb Smith presents credentials to Cuban President Fulgencio Batista US Ambassador presents credentials to Batista, 23 July 1957 (photo: Bettmann/CORBIS)

based on Manuel Márquez-Sterling's Cuba 1952-1959 and
Cuba 1952-1959 Interactive Timeline

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

1957: Manifesto of the Sierra

Cuba History Timeline Events
July 12, 1957
Castro reacts to the Manifesto of the Five with his 12th of July Manifesto (also called Manifesto of the Sierra or Carta de la Sierra) which was published in Bohemia on July 28. That document, also signed by Raúl Chibás and Felipe Pazos, urged all political parties and civic organizations to oppose an electoral solution and refuse negotiation or political compromise with the regime under any circumstances. Taking a “with me or against me” line, Castro's dueling manifesto framed the situation in Cuba as one with only two camps: Batista and Castro.

Castro’s manifesto reiterated the deceptive promises that on triumphing his revolution would uphold the 1940 Constitution and swiftly hold elections. It slanderously attacked the Bicameral Commission (to which it refers as the Interparliamentary Commission). It also lobbied for a US embargo on arms to the Batista government.

An English translation of the Manifesto of the Sierra is available in the Cuban Revolution section of Antonio de la Cova’s Latin American Studies web site. This is also appended to the document with original Spanish text linked above.

Chibas,Pazos,Castro Sierra Maestra Cuba Raúl Chibás (L), Felipe Pazos (C), Julio Martínez Paez (BACK) & Fidel Castro (R),
Sierra Maestra 1957 (Latin American Studies Collection)

based on Manuel Márquez-Sterling's Cuba 1952-1959 and
Cuba 1952-1959 Interactive Timeline

Monday, August 3, 2009

1957: Manifesto of the Five (Manifiesto de los Cinco)

Cuba History Timeline Events
June 11, 1957
Along with the Prío Auténticos' Corinthia invasion and M-26-7's El Uvero attack, both in Oriente province, Castro's M-26-7 revolutionaries ramped up their primary thrust: high visibility terrorism targeting the cities and major industries. The Cuban political crisis worsened with the rise in revolutionary violence. In June Time reported:

From tip to tip, Cuba was scorched by revolutionary violence last week. Saboteurs burned a hotel, tobacco-curing sheds, warehouses with $2,500,000 worth of sugar. A train was derailed. And, in one explosive day, President Fulgencio Batista's troops fought two separate battles against rebel forces in the eastern province of Oriente just as a bomb blast in a main electric cable conduit paralyzed downtown Havana.

In early June, deeply concerned about the rising tide of violence and the country’s deteriorating political situation, five opposition leaders published a joint statement, the Manifesto of the Five (Manifiesto de los Cinco). This manifesto advocated national unity in finding a way out of the crisis through political compromise, and called on the Cuban people to give their strong support to efforts to achieve a negotiated solution, whose centerpiece was free and fair elections.

The Manifesto was signed by five groups comprising the electoralist-constitutionalist opposition to the Batista regime: Ortodoxos (led by Millo Ochoa); Ortodoxia Libre (led by Carlos Márquez Sterling); Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario (led by José Pardo Llada); Defensa de la Constitución (led by Porfirio Pendás); and Movimiento de Liberación (led by Amalio Fiallo).

The signers of the manifesto declared their concerns and aims as:

We are worried about Cuba’s present and future and want to put this climate of violence behind us, replacing it with one of democracy and civilized order, rather than with absolute tyranny or desperate anarchy.

Our aim is that the [Batista] government leave power by the lawfully expressed majority will of the people, and that a democratic system and institutional order be established that jealously protect human life. Cuba wins by a legitimate and orderly transfer of power to its victorious people and their lawful representatives.

The Manifesto of the Five prophetically concluded that to continue on a course of revolutionary violence would result in the loss of the Cuban Republic “to implacable violence, a totalitarian dictatorship, and blind and bloody revenges.”

Among the publications that printed the Manifesto was Havana's leading newspaper, the Diario de La Marina, which included it in their front page article La Solución esta en las urnas, afirman 5 Partidos De Oposición ("The solution is the ballot box, affirm five opposition parties") published on June 11, 1957.

Escambray Guerillas 1958 Manifesto of the Five in Diario de la Marina 11 June 1957

based on Manuel Márquez-Sterling's Cuba 1952-1959 and
Cuba 1952-1959 Interactive Timeline